The Ledes

Friday, August 22, 2014.

New York Times: "A Chinese fighter jet flew within 30 feet of a Navy surveillance and reconnaissance plane this week in international airspace just off the Chinese coast, the Pentagon said Friday. The encounter, known as an intercept, 'was very, very close, very dangerous,' said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary. The Pentagon filed a diplomatic complaint with the People’s Liberation Army on Friday morning, Defense Department officials said. As of Friday afternoon, it had not received a reply."

** New York Times: "Russian military has moved artillery units manned by Russian personnel inside Ukrainian territory in recent days and was using them to fire at Ukrainian forces, NATO officials said on Friday. The West has long accused Russia of supporting the separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, but this is the first time it has said it had evidence that the Russian military was operating in Ukrainian territory."

Guardian: "Iraqi government forces and Kurdish peshmerga fighters have launched attacks to recapture two towns in the north from Islamic State (Isis) militants, as Western governments consider how to mount an effective response to the threat posed by the extremist group that has redrawn the border of Iraq and Syria."

New York Times: "The first trucks from a long-stalled Russian convoy said to be carrying humanitarian aid crossed the border into eastern Ukraine on Friday, without the consent of the Ukrainian government and unaccompanied by Red Cross escorts, as had been earlier agreed upon. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a long statement in Moscow saying, in essence, that it had authorized the crossing because it was fed up with stalling by the government in Kiev." ...

... Washington Post: "Ukrainian authorities appeared to be scrambling Friday to decide how to respond to the border incursion. A Ukrainian military spokesman backed away from previous bellicose statements, but state security chief Valentyn Nalivaychenko told journalists in Kiev, 'We consider this a direct invasion by Russia of Ukraine,' Reuters news agency reported. He said Ukrainian forces would not use force against the convoy because they want to avoid 'provocations.'”

AP: "Gaza gunmen killed 18 alleged spies for Israel on Friday, including seven who were lined up behind a mosque and shot after midday prayers, in response to Israel’s deadly airstrikes against top Hamas military commanders."

Washington Post: "Ever since the retirement of the space shuttle three years ago, American astronauts have had to hitchhike their way to the International Space Station aboard Russian spaceships. It is an increasingly costly arrangement..., made worse by U.S.-Russian tensions over the crisis in Ukraine. But in the coming weeks, NASA is expected to announce its long-awaited solution: a multibillion-dollar contract to build a U.S. spacecraft, which could help reignite a struggling American space program."

The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, August 21, 2014.

New York Times: "Some 10,000 mourners on Thursday buried three senior commanders of the armed wing of Hamas who were killed in predawn airstrikes by Israel, the most significant blow to the group’s leadership since Israel’s operation in Gaza began more than six weeks ago."

ABC News: "An American doctor who contracted Ebola will be released today from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, with details expected on the release of a second patient who also contracted the disease.... The virus has killed at least 1,229 and sickened 1,011 more, according to numbers released Tuesday by the World Health Organization. Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have the most cases."

Public Service Announcement

New York Times, August 15: "The Food and Drug Administration has approved Avastin — made by Genentech, a unit of the Swiss drug maker Roche — for a new use against late-stage cervical cancer, the seventh indication for the biotech drug, which had global sales of $6.25 billion last year."

White House Live Video
August 22

1:30 pm ET: Press briefing by Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

***********************************************

Looking for a bucolic retreat where the townspeople will protect you from curious outsiders? Got about $700K to burn? Then you might be interested in purchasing the former home of fiction writer J. D. Salinger. the property is located in Cornish, New Hamphire:

... Many more pix & a virtual tour here.

Kevin Roose of New York: "How to make $200MM in 28 months." CW: Yeah, I know. Twenty-eight months is a lo-o-o-ong time.

Stupid Wiki Tricks. Telegraph: "Wikimedia, the non-profit organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to stop distributing his most famous shot for free – because a monkey pressed the shutter button and should own the copyright."

The Wrap: "James Corden is taking over for Craig Ferguson as host of 'The Late Late Show' on CBS, an individual with knowledge of the situation has told TheWrap.... Corden stars in Disney's 'Into the Woods' and can currently be seen alongside Keira Knightley in 'Begin Again.'”

John Oliver on "native advertising." Via Juan Cole:

Justice Ginsburg on the Tumblr site Notorious R.B.G.:

Washington Post: "Former president George W. Bush has been writing a book about his father, former president George H.W. Bush. The book will be published in November."

"Homophonia." Caroline Moss of Business Insider: "An education blogger in Utah is out of a job today after writing [righting] a blog post explaining 'homophones' for the Nomen Global Language Center. Tim Torkildson said he was fired by [buy] his boss and NGLC owner, Clarke Woodger, for [four] promoting a gay agenda." Here's Torkildson's blogpost on his firing. Thanks to Akhilleus for the link.

Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times: "New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission would do well to turn down the Frick Collection’s proposed expansion, which imagines replacing a prized garden on East 70th Street in Manhattan with a clumsy addition. The city should avoid another self-inflicted wound, and there are other options." CW: As I recall, the garden is that it is difficult to see from the street. I love the garden court & have spent a good deal of time there.

Martha Stewart has a drone.

Washington Post: "On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. 'If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,' physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA."

New York: "Governor Cuomo and CBS announced Wednesday that The Late Show will continue to be shot at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater, its home of 21 years, when David Letterman retires and Stephen Colbert takes over in 2015. While it had been assumed that the show would be staying put, CBS only made it official today, announcing that it had received $11-million in state tax credits and $5-million in renovation money for the theater in exchange for staying in NYC and guaranteeing the continuation of 200 jobs surrounding the show's production." ...

... Nice announcement, but not as long as Cuomo's 13-page response to a New York Times article that showed Cuomo is a pompous, corrupt, two-faced hypocrite.

Lunar Landing, Cable News Version. Slate: "In 2009, Andrew Bouvé imagined what it would be like if the moon landing happened today, unleashing cable news on the event.... This Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing."

 

New Yorker illustration.

The New Yorker has opened up its archives for the summer. An excellent opportunity to get in on some fabulous reading.

 

CW: Jordan Weismann of Slate presents this audio as an unusual customer service horror story. It is a nightmare, to be sure. But as someone who has had to deal with stopping & starting various utility & communications services recently, I can attest that it is par for the course for an American U.S. customer service rep. Dealing with non-Americans, who increasing represent U.S. companies, is worse. These reps all work from scripts, but the non-Americans don't understand my English, so their "responses" are even more non-responsive than are those of the Comcast guy there:

 

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Constant Comments

Anyone with a cheap computer can become a columnist or a pundit. -- Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

About Me: I have a cheap computer.
-- Constant Weader

Follow CONSTANTWEADER on Twitter... for breaking news. I update several times a day & tweet only the big deals.

Sunday
Apr012012

The Commentariat -- April 2, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer, commenting on Bill Keller's New York Times column, asks the question, "Are Hate Crimes Worse than Other Crimes?" Most of you probably won't agree with my answer, but, hey, that's why they're called "opinions." The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

** Paul Krugman: "... on Thursday Republicans in the House of Representatives passed what was surely the most fraudulent budget in American history.... The trouble with the budget devised by Paul Ryan ... isn’t just its almost inconceivably cruel priorities, the way it slashes taxes for corporations and the rich while drastically cutting food and medical aid to the needy. Even aside from all that, the Ryan budget purports to reduce the deficit — but the alleged deficit reduction depends on the completely unsupported assertion that trillions of dollars in revenue can be found by closing tax loopholes."

** E. J. Dionne: "Right before our eyes, American conservatism is becoming something very different from what it once was. Yet this transformation is happening by stealth because moderates are too afraid to acknowledge what all their senses tell them."

Jeff Toobin, who was the principal alarmist -- "a train wreck" -- about the Supremes' questioning of the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, now writes his commentary in the New Yorker: "Acts of Congress, like the health-care law, are presumed to be constitutional, and it is—or should be—a grave and unusual step for unelected, unaccountable, life-tenured judges to overrule the work of the democratically elected branches of government.... The awesome, and final, powers of the Justices are best exercised sparingly and with restraint. Their normal burdens of interpreting laws are heavy enough. No one expects the Justices to be making health-care policy any more than we expect them to be picking Presidents, which, it may be remembered, is not exactly their strength, either." Read the whole post.

Dan Barry, et al., of the New York Times write an extensive report on the killing of Trayvon Martin. If you've missed some of the particulars, this will bring you up-to-date.

Keith Laing of The Hill: "Transportation advocates are losing hope for passage of a highway bill before the election following Congress's decision this week to pass another short-term funding extension. Instead of approving the multi-year transportation bill that passed the Senate, lawmakers adopted a temporary extension of legislation that already funds road and transit projects. The short-term measure, signed Friday by President Obama, extends federal transportation funding until June 30." ...

... Brad Plumer of the Washington Post: "... a growing number of states — from California to Florida — have been bringing in private capital to bankroll their transportation needs. But is privatizing infrastructure really such a good idea?" Plumer reviews the pros & cons.

Susan Page of USA Today: "President Obama has opened the first significant lead of the 2012 campaign in the nation's dozen top battleground states, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, boosted by a huge shift of women to his side.... Obama leads Republican front-runner Mitt Romney 51%-42% among registered voters just a month after the president had trailed him by two percentage points. The biggest change came among women under 50. In mid-February, just under half of those voters supported Obama. Now more than six in 10 do while Romney's support among them has dropped by 14 points, to 30%. The president leads him 2-1 in this group." ...

... Steve Kornacki of Salon: "This may be a case of history repeating itself. The last Democratic president to stand for reelection, Bill Clinton in 1996, owed his reelection to a massive and decisive gender gap.... But, as with Obama, his presidency provoked relentless, culturally-fueled conservative opposition that had particular resonance with white male voters, especially in the South and rural areas. The 'angry white male' phenomenon was key to the GOP’s 1994 midterm landslide...."

Ylan Mui of the Washington Post: "The burden of paying for college is wreaking havoc on the finances of an unexpected demographic: senior citizens. New research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that Americans 60 and older still owe about $36 billion in student loans, providing a rare window into the dynamics of student debt. More than 10 percent of those loans are delinquent. As a result, consumer advocates say, it is not uncommon for Social Security checks to be garnished or for debt collectors to harass borrowers in their 80s over student loans that are decades old."

CW: I missed Glenn Greenwald's column on Saturday, but he makes an important point: as far as the media are concerned, all terrorism is Muslim, and in many quarters it's quite all right to make remarks or "jokes" about Muslims of a kind that no one would make about other ethnic groups.

Right Wing World

In a USA Today op-ed, Rick Santorum whacks President Obama and Mitt Romney for ObamaRomneyCare, which, as you know, "will take away your freedoms." CW: I'm too lazy to unpack the ldisinformation & misstatements in the op-ed. Here, PolitiFact takes care of the first misstatement.

Phil Rockstroh in TruthOut helps explain why poor white conservative men are totally screwed up. He uses as an example his old friend Vince: "... as the day-to-day humiliations exacted by the corporate state continue to inflict deeper, more emotionally debilitating wounds, the more Vince reacts like a wounded animal … lashing out at all but those who bestow him with the palliative of rightwing demagogic lies that distort the source of his suffering by means of directing his rage at a host of scapegoats i.e., phantom socialists (and, of course, their OWS dirty hippie dupes) whose, schemes, he insists, have denied him his rightful place among the serried ranks of capitalism's legion of winners." Read the whole thing. I think it helps explain the some of what Chris Mooney observed about The Republican Brain in the piece I linked in the Commentariat two days ago." Thanks to my friend Kate M. for the link.

[Romney] started this campaign in the aftermath of that tea party victory in 2010 when all the people on the far right of the Republican party actually believed a majority of the voters had embraced the specific things they were saying. So it created a horrible dilemma for Romney. And the poor man who got in trouble for the Etch-a-Sketch remark. That’s like the saying, ‘There is nothing more damaging in politics than telling the truth.’ I mean, the truth is, that’s what he’s gotta do. -- Bill Clinton ...

 ... CW: I skipped this New York Times op-ed by David Javerbaum because I am sick of reading about Mitt Romney, but the article is pretty good. Jeverbaum explains Romney's movable policy positions in terms of quantum physics (I guess -- I don't really speak quantum physics). ...

... More Bouncing Protons. Tamara Keith of NPR: Romney used to be pretty sensible about conserving energy; he isn't anymore. With audio. ...

... Greg Sargent: "... the Obama-allied Priorities USA Action is going up with a new ad in seven swing states hitting back hard at a spot being run by an outside conservative group attacking the President over high gas prices":

News Ledes

Washington Post: Martha Johnson, "the chief of the General Services Administration, is resigning and two of her top deputies have been fired amid reports of excessive spending at a training conference at a luxury hotel that featured a mindreader, a clown and a comedian.... Four GSA employees who organized the four-day conference have been placed on adminstrative leave pending further action. The resignations come as the agency’s inspector general prepares to release a scathing report on the training conference, held at a luxury hotel outside Las Vegas in October 2010."

ABC News: "A gunman who opened fire at Oikos University, a Christian school in Oakland, Calif., this morning, killing at least seven people and wounding three others, may be in custody, police said." The college focuses on teaching nursing; the suspect is a former student.

AP: "In the thick of political contests in both the United States and Mexico, [President] Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon traded unusually direct claims about the cause and effect of the drug violence that has consumed a swath of northeastern Mexico."

ABC News: "Immigration & Customs Enforcement [ICE] said today it arrested 3,168 criminal aliens and fugitives in a six-day nationwide sweep in every state including Puerto Rico and The District of Colombia. The operation dubbed 'Cross-Check' included more than 2,834 individuals who had prior criminal convictions. ICE officials noted that 50 gang members and 149 convicted sex offenders were nabbed. Although ICE has run similar operations..., ICE Director John Morton said this was the largest to date."

New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Monday ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that officials may strip-search people arrested for any offense, however minor, before admitting them to jails even if the officials have no reason to suspect the presence of contraband. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, joined by the court’s conservative wing, wrote that courts are in no position to second-guess the judgments of correctional officials who must consider not only the possibility of smuggled weapons and drugs but also public health and information about gang affiliations."

ABC News: "Former President Bill Clinton said ... the killing of Trayvon Martin should cause a re-thinking of the 'Stand Your Ground' law." With video.

New York Times: a new study of twins shows that "While sequencing the entire DNA of individuals is proving fantastically useful in understanding diseases and finding new treatments, it is not a method that will, for the most part, predict a person’s medical future."

Guardian: "Satellite images of a North Korean rocket launch site show a mobile radar trailer and rows of what appear to be empty fuel and oxidiser tanks, evidence of ramped-up preparation for what Washington calls a cover for a long-range missile test. An analysis of images that the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies gave to Associated Press on Monday shows Pyongyang 'has undertaken more extensive preparations for its planned April rocket launch than previously understood'. The images were taken on Wednesday."

AP: "A major donor to President Barack Obama has been accused of defrauding a businessman and impersonating a bank official.... The New York donor, Abake Assongba, and her husband contributed more than $50,000 to Obama's re-election effort this year, federal records show. But Assongba is also fending off a civil court case in Florida, where she's accused of thieving more than $650,000 to help build a multimillion-dollar home in the state — a charge her husband denies."

AP: "A Pakistani court on Monday convicted Osama bin Laden's three widows and two of his daughters of illegally entering and living in the country and sentenced them to 45 days in prison, with credit for time served, their lawyer said.The five women have been in detention since last May...."

Guardian: "Bashar al-Assad has been warned to implement a UN-backed peace plan to end more than a year of violence in Syria, amid growing scepticism at the lack of international resolve to tackle the bloodiest crisis of the Arab spring. Hillary Clinton ... issued the threat at a conference of the Friends of the Syrian people in Istanbul on Sunday, but there was little evidence of coherent international action if he does not comply."

Guardian: "Aung San Suu Kyi has hailed 'the beginning of a new era' in Burma's politics after her party claimed a spectacular 43 out of 44 parliamentary seats in Sunday's historic byelection. Speaking to thousands of red-clad supporters outside the headquarters of her opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), the Nobel laureate called the election 'a triumph of the people' and said: 'We hope this will be the beginning of a new era.'"

AP: The Census Bureau will release its 1940 records today; 21 million Americans whose personal data appear in the records are still living, raising privacy issues.

AP: "A credit card processor says that a recent data breach may affect less than 1.5 million cards in North America. Visa and Mastercard announced Friday that they had notified users of the potential for identity theft and illicit charges because of the breach. The card processor, Global Payments put a number on those who could be affected late Sunday."

Saturday
Mar312012

The Commentariat -- April 1, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on Ross Douthat's little screed about health care costing too much and how Obama & Congressional Democrats managed to hide the true costs. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here. ...

... AND do read this funny, short takedown of Tom Friedman by Hamilton Nolan of Gawker. Nolan perfectly captures Friedman.

New York Times Editors: "For anyone who still thought legal conservatives are dedicated to judicial restraint, the oral arguments before the Supreme Court on the health care case should put that idea to rest. There has been no court less restrained in signaling its willingness to replace law made by Congress with law made by justices.... A split court striking down the act will be declaring itself virtually unfettered by the law. And if that happens along party lines, with five Republican-appointed justices supporting the challenge led by 26 Republican governors, the court will mark itself as driven by politics."

Nicholas Kristof persuades Goldman Sachs to get out of the sex-trafficking business.

Steve Hendrix of the Washington Post: "... in Libya, five months after the death of the man who managed to hold this country together by brute force, people are beginning to wonder whether there is any other way to do it."

Caroline Bankoff of New York magazine: George W. & Laura Bush's daughters, Barbara and Jenna, voted for Barack Obama in 2008.

CW: I read several posts in mostly respectable online journals & other media (PBS!) that highlighted this astounding figure: families earning less than $13,000 spend 9 percent of that income on lottery tickets. I too was shocked. So I read the study that generated all the foo-fah, which is here (pdf). I'll be darned if I can see where the study shows any such thing. Maybe you're a better reader than I.

Right Wing World

CNN: Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) no longer thinks it's a good idea to imply that the nation's top military brass are liars and perjurers when they claim cuts in defense spending are warranted.

Existential Dread, Right-Wing Style. Thanks to Jon Chait of New York magazine, I found out what conservatives are skeert of. Apparently the denizens of Right Wing World cite this passage often -- and even more often now that we have a black Muslim socialist in the White House:

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. -- Anonymous (variously incorrectly attributed to de Toqueville & others)

CW: while I was mulching some giant crinum lilies today, my mind wandered to the Chris Mooney article I linked yesterday, & I came up with my own counter-theory about what's eating conservatives. I'm not ready to reveal it just yet, but I think I'll give it a whirl in polite company one of these days and see how many spit-takes it engenders. ...

     ... Update: just read the following. It feeds into my theory:

** "Stag Party." Frank Rich: "... the hostility toward modern women resurfacing in the GOP today was baked into the party before the religious right gained its power and before recriminalizing abortion became a volatile cause.... Unlike the angry Santorum, [Romney] has the smooth style of a fifties retro patriarch to camouflage the reactionary content [of his views about women]. In this sense, his war on women would differ from Rick’s — and Rush’s — only in the way prized by GOP spin artists like Noonan and Matalin. He would never be so politically foolhardy as to spell out on-camera just how broad and nasty its goals really are."

The way things are supposed to be in the marital realm.

News Ledes

New York Times: "The United States and more than 60 other countries moved closer on Sunday to direct intervention in the fighting in Syria, with Arab nations pledging $100 million to pay opposition fighters and the Obama administration agreeing to send communications equipment to help rebels organize and evade Syria’s military, according to participants gathered here."

New York Times: "The party of [Nobel Peace Prize winner] Daw Aung San Suu Kyi declared that she had won a seat in Myanmar’s Parliament on Sunday, an unofficial result that may herald a new era for the country as it moves toward democracy after decades of oppressive military rule."

AP: More details emerge about Osama bin Ladin's life in Pakistan in the years before U.S. Navy SEALS killed him.

Friday
Mar302012

The Commentariat -- March 31, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer, delayed thanks to my lousy e-mail, is the second of a two-parter on the New York Times' response to the oral arguments in the challenge to the Affordable Care Act. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

President Obama's weekly address:

     ... The transcript is here. AP story here.

Cecile Richardson, President of Planned Parenthood, directs supporters to this video:

Gail Collins decides that the worst trend this political season is Americans Elect. CW: this pleases me a great deal inasmuch as Collins surely knows her worst-trend pick is a favorite of Tom Friedman.

Prof. Chris Edelson in Common Dreams: "Now, the Court stands poised to rely on the rhetoric of the Tea Party to stand in the way of Congress’s ability to deal with a truly national problem — if tens of millions of people without health insurance who pass on tens of billions in costs to other Americans isn’t a national problem, then what is? When the Court issues its decision, the question won’t be whether Americans might be forced to eat broccoli.... What we’ll really find out is whether Congress has the power to govern a nation, a problem the Framers seemed to have settled long ago.... The ultimate question, in fact, is whether the United States is a nation or merely a group of 300 million people who happen to share living space." Read the whole post. ...

... Into the Abyss. Ed Kilgore of the Washington Monthly: "It is sometimes forgotten that state and local governments do the major work of delivering federally-funded domestic services in this country; the feds mostly cut checks and write regs. If a majority of the Supreme Court begins questioning the constitutionality of this relationship, we aren’t just looking at an invalidation of a Medicaid expansion, or even of Medicaid itself, horrid as that would be. We could be on the brink of having to reconsider our basic form of governing. I hope the Justices who so casually toss around contemptuous references to decades of precedents aren’t so arrogant as to throw us into that abyss." ...

... And so on the nation's highest court, satire replaced stare decisis in a slightly altered version of the Red Queen's jurisprudence in Alice in Wonderland: First the verdict, then the trial. -- Bob Shrum ...

... Read Shrum's post in The Week. It's a well-written & thoughtful summation of this week's high courtroom shenanigans. His speculation that striking the ACA would help President Obama's re-election bid is a stretch. Shrum isn't much of a pronosticator. On election day 2004, he assured us Kerry would win (though, to be fair, he hadn't taken account of the GOP's manipulation of the Ohio results). ...

... Jonathan Chait of New York magazine: "... the shock of the liberal analysts who expected a landslide does prove they misjudged the case, but their error lies not in underestimating the arguments, which they imbibed closely, but in overestimating the Republican justices."

... Reed Abelson & Katie Thomas of the New York Times: "Although it would be folly to predict what the court will conclude [on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act], policy experts, insurers, doctors and legislators are now seriously contemplating the repercussions of a complete change in course two years after the nation began to put the law into place."

Steven Erlanger of the New York Times: French "methods of combating homegrown terrorism ... are quite different [from those of the United States], stemming from different histories, legal systems and conceptions of the state.... With the largest number of Muslims in Europe — nearly 10 percent of the population, often concentrated in poorer neighborhoods — and closer proximity to the Middle East and North Africa, France has focused more on preventing the recruitment of potential terrorists through a regular infiltration of mosques and radical Islamic networks.

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "General Motors ... has confirmed that it is pulling funding from the Heartland Institute, an ultra-conservative thinktank known for its scepticism about climate change. The decision by the GM Foundation to halt its support for Heartland after 20 years underlines the new image the carmaker is seeking to project as part of its social responsibility programme.... The funding cut – just $15,000 a year – is small beer for the institute, which has a multi-million dollar turnover, largely from a single anonymous donor."

Michael Doyle of the Sacramento Bee: "San Joaquin Valley congressional candidate Jose Hernandez flew in space, but his astronaut identity is now under political fire. In a pointed new challenge, a Sacramento law firm is asking a judge to block Hernandez from describing himself as an "astronaut/scientist/engineer" on the June ballot. The lawsuit notes Hernandez has left NASA." Via Steve Benen. CW: Excuse me. After being drummed from his speakership for ethics violations & other stuff, Newt Gingrich is still Speaker for Life, but an astronaut is not an astronaut a year after he leaves the program to run for office? ...

... Here is Hermandez' response to the suit:

Matt Flegenheimer of the New York Times: "Last December, in response to an Op-Ed column by David Brooks, [Charles] Snelling [of Allentown, Pennsylvania] contributed a 5,000-word 'Life Report' essay to nytimes.com, devoting the final section to his wife [Adrienne's Alzheimer's] disease and his role in managing it.... On Thursday..., Mr. Snelling killed his wife and himself...." The essay Snelling wrote is here. Washington Post story here. ...

... Coincidentally -- Susan Jacoby in a New York Times op-ed: "... end-of-life planning is one of the few actions within the power of individuals who wish to help themselves and their society. Too few Americans are shouldering this responsibility.... As someone over 65, I do not consider it my duty to die for the convenience of society. I do consider it my duty, to myself and younger generations, to follow the example my mother set by doing everything in my power to ensure that I will never be the object of medical intervention that cannot restore my life but can only prolong a costly living death."

Right Wing World *

** CW: I hope you all will read this article by Chris Mooney, much of it excerpted from his book The Republican Brain, and tell us what you think about it. Obviously, the country cannot go on like this, with a considerable percentage of the population incurably delusional.

We don’t think the generals are giving us their true advice. We don’t think the generals believe that their budget is really the right budget. I think there’s a lot of budget smoke and mirrors in the Pentagon’s budget. -- Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), Chair of the House Budget Committee

There’s a difference between having someone say they don’t believe what you said versus ... calling us, collectively, liars. My response is: I stand by my testimony. This was very much a strategy-driven process to which we mapped the budget. -- Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

CW: Evidently Ryan figures the Chair of the Joint Chiefs & other top brass are lying to Congress when they cut their own budgets because they are not planning ahead for this:

Alex Pareene of Salon: "When John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman join forces, you can be sure of one thing: It will involve state-sponsored violence. Today, they want us to arm Syrian rebels. Though, you know, what they really wanted to call for was actually bombing the hell out of Syria, until there is freedom. They’re just taking it slow.... Sadly, Joe Lieberman will be leaving the U.S. Senate soon, which means John McCain and Lindsey Graham will need to find a new fake-Democrat best friend to add a patina of “bipartisanship” to their endless demands for explosions and shooting and death."

CW: Let that sink in. Paul Ryan is insisting the Pentagon take more money than the brass calculate they need at the same time he is slashing social safety net programs. So dedicated is he to taking from the taxpayer to give to the defense contractors that he is willing to publicly accuse the nation's top generals of perjury. P.S. Defense expert Ryan has never served in the military. He has, however, been the beneficiary of social safety net programs.

Kevin Drum: conservatives don't trust science. "This is not because conservatives are a bunch of undereducated yahoos.... Conservative elites have led the anti-science charge and the rank-and-file has followed. This is presumably part of the wider conservative turn against knowledge-disseminating institutions whose output is perceived as too liberal (academia, the mainstream media, Hollywood) in favor of institutions that produce more reliably conservative narratives (churches, business-oriented think tanks, Fox News). More and more, liberals and conservatives are almost literally living in different worlds with different versions of consensus reality."

As Rick Santorum fades in the polls & party leaders begin endorsing Romney because he's going to win (and not because they like him), Sam Stein & Jason Cheris of the Huffington Post dump their Santorum stuff. It's a pretty good read.

Pink Bowling Balls. I apologize for not linking this timely. Eric Dolan of Raw Story: "Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Wednesday told a young man not to use a pink ball at a bowling alley in Wisconsin. 'You’re not gonna use the pink ball. We’re not gonna let you do that. Not on camera,' he said.... 'Friends don’t let friends use pink balls,' he added." ...

... Erin Ryan of Jezebel: "... maybe Rick Santorum's aversion to a man bowling with a pink ball is rooted in the fact that Rick Santorum is a genitalia-obsessed homophobe with a God complex and no self awareness clinging for his life to the flimsy idea that in order for the world to continue existing as Santorum wants it to exist, boys must not bowl with pink balls. Is there anything gender or sex-related about which this man doesn't have a complex?"

* Where it's so comfy to live because everything and everyone is predictable -- even the warmongers.

Local News

Bruce Vielmetti & Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "A federal judge in Madison on Friday ruled that portions of Act 10 - which removed most collective bargaining for most public employees - are unconstitutional. Though critics of the law welcomed the decision as a major victory, backers seemed unconcerned since it preserved a main limit on bargaining, and suggested broader restrictions would pass muster if applied to all state workers." ...

... Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) has made it official — he’s running against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) in this summer’s recall election." Journal Sentinel story here.

News Ledes

The Plot Thickens. Orlando Sentinel: "Tom Owen, forensic consultant for Owen Forensic Services LLC and chair emeritus for the American Board of Recorded Evidence, used voice identification software to rule out [George] Zimmerman [as the person crying for help on the 911 tape moments before Trayvon Martin was shot dead]. Another expert contacted by the Sentinel, utilizing different techniques, came to the same conclusion. Zimmerman claims self-defense in the shooting and told police he was the one screaming for help. But these experts say the evidence tells a different story."

New York Times: "The Muslim Brotherhood nominated its chief strategist and financier Khairat el-Shater on Saturday as its candidate to become Egypt’s first president since Hosni Mubarak, breaking a pledge not to seek the top office and a monopoly on power."

New York Times: "As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton worked hard on Saturday to focus attention on deepening security ties with the Arab nations of the Persian Gulf, she found herself having to deal with a surprising act of diplomatic defiance: the decision by the United Arab Emirates, an ally, to shutter the offices of an American-financed group that promotes democracy.

AP: "Maryland lottery officials announced early Saturday that their state sold what could become the world's largest lottery payout of all-time, but it wasn't immediately clear if that ticket holder would get sole possession of the $640 million jackpot or have to split it with other winners." ...

     ... Update: "Lottery ticket-holders in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland each selected the winning numbers and will split a $640 million jackpot that was believed to be the world’s largest such prize, a lottery official said Saturday."

Reuters: "The U.S. Secret Service is investigating a major cyber intrusion at an Atlanta-based payment processor that could expose millions of MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover cardholders to fraudulent charges. Processor Global Payments Inc said on Friday it had found 'unauthorized access' into its system early in March and notified law enforcement and financial institutions."

Thursday
Mar292012

The Commentariat -- March 30, 2012

CW: Today's comments are extraordinary. Treat yourself.

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "If the usual process occurs, the justices of the Supreme Court will gather around a large rectangular table Friday morning and, one by one, cast their votes on the constitutionality of President Obama’s health-care law. They will let the rest of us know the outcome in due time.... In a town where secrets are hard to keep, the Supreme Court is a striking outlier. The justices and their clerks know the outcome of cases almost immediately, but it’s rare for rulings to become known before the justices announce them." ...

... Paul Krugman: "... we don’t know how this will go. But it’s hard not to feel a sense of foreboding — and to worry that the nation’s already badly damaged faith in the Supreme Court’s ability to stand above politics is about to take another severe hit."

... Gene Robinson: Justice Anthony "Kennedy seemed to be genuinely looking for a principle that permitted a health insurance mandate but not a broccoli mandate. And [Solicitor General Donald] Verrilli gave him one. The market for health insurance is inseparable from the market for health care, he argued, and every citizen is a consumer of health care. Those who choose not to buy health insurance require health care anyway — often expensive care at hospital emergency rooms — and these costs are borne by the rest of us in the form of higher premiums." ...

... NEW. Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The way to frame a Supreme Court argument meant to persuade Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is to talk about liberty. It is his touchstone and guiding principle, and his conception of liberty is likely to determine the future of President Obama’s health care law." CW: also, look for yet another snide remark from Scalia. ...

... Jack Balkin defines three limiting principles that justify "the individual mandate but doesn't give Congress unlimited power under the Commerce Clause." ...

... Ezra Klein interviews Constitutional Prof. Akhil Reed Amar, who makes it so simple even Scalia could understand it: "The limit is the Constitution. What Congress does has to be in the enumerated powers. One of those powers is the Interstate Commerce Clause. What are the limits on that power? It only applies to regulations that are interstate and commercial. So Congress has to be actually trying to address a commercial problem that spills over state lines. And that’s clearly true here. At any given nanosecond, millions of Americans are out of state.... And if ... any of these Americans fall sick, we go to a local ER. That’s an interstate issue. Similarly, if we don’t cover preexisting conditions, we have a lock-in for labor mobility — many workers will be unable to take better jobs out-of-state and thereby contribute more to their families and to the economy. And that’s what the Interstate Commerce Clause was all about: Getting rid of the impediments to genuine interstate commerce, to the free movement of goods and labor." ...

... Simon Lazarus of The New Republic defends Solicitor General Donald Verrilli against widespread criticism: "... having sat through the oral argument and re-read the transcript, I have to dissent. Especially on paper, Verrilli’s performance appears quite strong — and possibly more effective than that of his opponents, Michael Carvin and the justly renowned Paul Clement." CW: that's exactly the point I made the other day. The government may lose its case, but it won't be Verrilli's fault -- it will be the fault of Tea Party Justices using childish hypotheticals to claim that if they don't save America from ObamaCare, President Obama & the Democrats will make you eat bran & broccoli & force you to buy exercise equipment. ...

... David Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix: "I have no idea where the justices will come down on the constitutionality issue. I just want people to back up and remember that when jackasses yap about the potential broccoli-gestapo tyranny that might in theory stifle the liberties of those handfuls of hypothetical Americans who wish to live free of health insurance, there are in reality millions of American children who, through absolutely no fault of their own, are in fact systematically denied access to basic health care every day." Read the whole post. ...

... Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker discusses some of the alternatives to the individual mandate -- none would be as good as the mandate, because the result would be to raise premiums & lower enrollment, but they would allow the law to function -- unless of course Scalia gets his way & strikes the whole law. Commenter Bill Kellett has a point: "So when OSHA demands safety glasses be worn they aren't requiring a product be purchased?"

     .... CW: every one of us buys stuff because the government says we must -- car buyers could save thousands of dollars if they didn't have to pay for all those pesky safety features; no, no one forces you to buy a car, but for perhaps the majority of American adults, a car is a practical necessity. Even if you take public transportation, you're paying for the federally-required features on the bus or the train. That is, the government requires almost everyone to buy -- or rent -- vehicular safety products: airbags, seat belts, horns! Moreover, if I take the city bus, it will never take me across state lines; the bus is not engaging in interstate commerce, but it must be built to meet federal safety standards, & I have to help pay for those features. It's a mandate.

 
Charles Pierce
on Trayvon Martin and "the way of the gun." An excellent post. A commenter on the post, Katherine Harris, writes, "I just want someone to explain to me, without laughing, how a twenty-eight-year-old man with no affiliation with any kind of organization carrying a concealed weapon in any way constitutes 'a well-regulated militia.'" ...

... CW: But I will disagree with Pierce on one thing. If Americans want safer gun laws, the one way to get them is to eviscerate the NRA, because it is they who are purchasing politicians & writing all this legislation for them. So if you belong to the NRA -- QUIT.

An Etiquette Lesson for White Conservative Guys  

Elspeth Reeve of The Atlantic volunteers to help out Victor Davis Hanson, a white conservative guy who complains in the National Review of Interracial Etiquette that

The country is obsessed with decoding a scratchy tape to ascertain whether Mr. Zimmerman said 'cold, coons, goons, or punks,' with the idea that if the garbled word proves a racial slur.... No one can explain why Mr. Martin felt a need to so self-identify [as No Limit Nigga on his Twitter account]; no one seems to care; and no one can provide rules of the conditions under which (who says it, and when, why, how) society must deplore the use of such an epithet."

     ... CW: yes, I know you think VDH is an incredible asshole (almost always an appropriate slur when applied to goons & punks like VDH [and why does he need three names?]), but Reeve is more patient. She writes, "... the rules are pretty clear: if you're white, don't use the N-word. But even if Hanson thinks there's some blurriness left, there's a really, really clear-cut situation when you should not say the N-word, or any other racial slur, is when you're considering shooting an unarmed teenager who happens to be black."

Teresa Smith of the Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Journal: "... the [Canadian] government has announced it will phase out the [penny] beginning this fall. The decision, announced in Thursday's federal budget, came down to dollars and cents. Due to inflation, 'the penny's burden to the economy has grown relative to its value as a means of payment,' according to budget documents."

 

Right Wing World *

... NEW. Julie Davis & Greg Stohr of Bloomberg News: "A Republican Party web-based advertisement uses altered audio from U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments to attack President Barack Obama’s health-care law. In a spot circulated [Wednesday], the Republican National Committee excerpts the opening seconds of the March 27 presentation of ... Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, in which he is heard struggling for words and twice stopping to drink water.... A review of a transcript and recordings of those moments shows that Verrilli took a sip of water just once, paused for a much briefer period, and completed his thought, rather than stuttering and trailing off as heard in the doctored version." ...

... Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog: the RNC ad "... also sets back the effort to get the Court to become more transparent.... The Justices now have before them a perfect illustration of the gross distortion that can instantly be made of recordings of their proceedings. What is to stop the same misleading stunt being pulled with the Justices’ own oral argument questions and comments? Nothing at all. The Court made a special exception in releasing the oral argument tape for the health care arguments so promptly, and it probably will hesitate before doing so again. If there were any chance that the Justices would permit cameras in the Court, I do not see happening now." Thanks to contributor Dave S. for the link.

* Where the motto is "If the facts don't fit, change 'em."

Local News

NEW. Tim Jones of Bloomberg News: Wisconsin "Governor Scott Walker will face a recall vote June 5 after election officials in Madison cleared the way for an ouster election. The Government Accountability Board, meeting in the state Capitol today, unanimously found that petition signatures seeking the recall of Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, both Republicans, met the legal standard to force an election Walker, whose opposition to unions touched off public fury, may become the third U.S. governor to be removed from office."

News Ledes

New York Times: "President Obama has determined there is enough oil in world markets to allow countries to rely less on imports from Iran, a step that could increase Western actions to deter Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, an administration official said Friday."

New York Times: "Eight days after the police shot dead the self-confessed killer of four Jews and three French paratroopers in southwestern France, elite units on Friday raided localities in several parts of the country and detained 17 people described as Islamic militants."

Washington Post: "European finance ministers agreed Friday to bolster the total capacity of their bailout funds to nearly $1 trillion, a temporary measure that aims to convince investors that they are serious about continuing to help struggling countries repay their debts."

New York Times: "Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin on Friday endorsed the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney, saying Republicans do not have the luxury of waiting until the party’s convention this summer to rally behind a nominee and start confronting President Obama."

AP: "The U.S. ambassador to Russia is perplexed over how a government-controlled television station seems to know his every move and concerned that his email and phone calls may be intercepted. In a series of tweets on Thursday, Michael McFaul said he encounters crews from the NTV channel wherever he goes."

Guardian: "A man who says he saw Trayvon Martin shot dead claims that the Florida teenager and his killer, George Zimmerman, were scuffling on the ground at the time with one on top of the other.... The anonymous man said he reported to police details of what he saw on the evening of 26 February, which included watching the gunman walking away from the fight apparently uninjured." Video of the interview, with CNN's Anderson Cooper, is here.